Monday, January 12, 2009

Gone to the Dogs

A 10/1/09 postscript from the Sydney Morning Herald's acting letters editor, Harriet Veitch:

"The big subject of the week was Israel and the attacks on the Gaza Strip. A regrettably large number of letters were anti-Semitic and a smaller number anti-Arab. Using the Racial Discrimination Act as a guide we did not publish anything 'reasonably likely in all the circumstances to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group of people'. Even so, we could publish only a small number of the heartfelt letters, otherwise they would have dominated the letters page completely. Nearly as overwhelming were letters about dogs and people, and people and dogs, on leash and off leash."

The question arises: who is Harriet Veitch* and what are her qualifications and criteria for deeming letters on "Israel and the attacks on the Gaza Strip" [Whose attacks on the GS?] "anti-Semitic"?

"[W]e [she?] did not publish anything 'reasonably likely in all the circumstances to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group of people'." She's joking, right? Offend? When is an Israel-firster ever not offended whenever someone so much as looks sideways at his one and only love?

And for that matter, what is the point of writing a letter to the editor if it doesn't offend someone? Why not just close the letters page down? And did a "large number" of Herald letter writers really "insult, humiliate or - God forbid - intimidate"? Blimey, what sort of disagreeable crowd are reading the Herald?

"We could only publish a small number... otherwise they would have dominated the letters page completely." So? On 31/12/04 the Herald published 11 letters on the tsunami, a natural disaster. How much more concerning to anyone with feeling should be the entirely man-made (and hence preventable) disaster now unfolding in Gaza? Oh, I see, there wouldn't have been enough room for all those good folk who wanted to vent on the subject of... dogs. DOGS, for God's sake!

But why do I bother? This latest episode of spinelessness** at the Herald was to be expected. Former Herald letters editor, Miranda Harman, learnt her lesson back in January last year, did she not? (See my 24 & 27/1/08 posts We Remember Warsaw & We Remember Warsaw: The Sequel) I commented at the time: "As a natural born pessimist... I'm betting that no matter what war crimes and outrages Israel perpetrates in the future, Miranda will be wondering if publishing any letters blowing the whistle on same is worth the flack, and will therefore refrain from doing so." It appears that that lesson has been passed on down to her successors.

[* You might be interested in this 2005 profile from the Jane Austen Society of Australia website: "Harriet Veitch trained as a journalist and is now a sub-editor and book reviewer with the Sydney Morning Herald. She is also an amateur Austenite. Her hobbies include Henry Tilney and Fitzwilliam Darcy. She would rather not meet the Bingley sisters or Fanny Dashwood." (]

[**See also my 23 & 29/9/08 posts Hurricane Herzl & Hurricane Herzl Fallout.]

While on the subject of the Herald, check out this mangy dog of an editorial: "What must the Israeli soldier who fired that shell be feeling as the consequences of that action sink in?" [That's easy to answer. As an Israeli, he was of course consumed with guilt. Not at all like those inferior Arab untermenschen!] The Israeli army has killed more than 700 Palestinians and injured some 3,000 in just 2 weeks. Some of the body bags carried from the rubble in Gaza are heart-wrenchingly small. [Especially that little blue plastic bag with the blood dripping out of the hole in the bottom. It goes without saying that his heart is not similarly wrenched when he see the bigger ones.] Harder to photograph, but just as real [Just as real as the hundreds of Palestinian deaths and the thousands of maimed and mangled Palestinians, eh? Sorry, I didn't notice. Wait till I wipe this blood out of my eyes.], is the terror of a million* Israeli civilians living under the constant threat of rocket and mortar attack by the Hamas militant movement. On December 24, 5 days after Hamas had declared the previous ceasefire dead [After the Israelis did what..?], the militants rained at least 60 rockets and 40 mortar shells on Israeli cities, describing it as the 'first message' of a sustained military campaign. Hamas is a very different beast [& what sort of beast is Israel I wonder?] to the old Palestine Liberation Organization headed by Yasser Arafat. The PLO also used violence [but never the Israelis!], but it was supported by mainly secular Ba'athist regimes of the Arab world. [But that didn't cut much ice with the Israelis back then, did it?] Hamas retains some of those links but frames the Palestinian struggle as part of a violent pan-Islamic jihad against Jews [Oh, you mean like al-Qa'ida? Well, why don't you just come right out and say bin Laden's pulling Hamas' strings? And, while you're at it, could we please have a list of Hamas' overseas operations against Jews?], a struggle it says is justified in the Koran. [So, without the Koran, loss of their homeland and an intolerable, never-ending occupation would not suffice for Palestinian resistance?]" (Breaking the cycle of violence needs a different intelligence, 10/1/09)

[* See my 6/1/09 post Go Figure 2]

Finally, and you would not do this to a dog, the Herald's gone and put an ad for a forthcoming book by - wait for it! - former US ambassador (x2) to Israel MartinIndyk where Alan Ramsey used to be!


Anonymous said...

I guess the only message that might get through is for all of those angry letter writers who were ignored is to cancel their subscriptions to the SMH en masse. That is what I intend to do.


Anonymous said...

Extremist Muslims are using internet forums to collect names and addresses of prominent European Jews with the goal, it seems clear, of assassinating them in retaliation for Israel's actions in Gaza.

Mark LeVine is a professor of Middle East history at the University of California, Irvine, and is the author of Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam and the soon to be published An Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989.

seems a little shrill and implausible.